Five years ago, Calvin Middleton was looking for a sport he could enjoy with his son, Jason.
He had coached football and baseball teams that his son played on, but Middletown wanted to work with his son one-on-one. He wanted to devote attention to his son rather than a group of athletes.
After Middletown visited Summit Point Raceway near Charles Town, W.Va., to watch a friend race Go-Karts, he enjoyed it so much that hetook his son Jason back to watch the following week.
"At first, Ithought the carts would be like the ones you race at places like Ocean City," said Jason. "But once I saw it, I said 'Wow.' I was ready to go."
Within two weeks they had their own cart.
Now, four years later, Jason Middleton of Finksburg is one of the top riders in thearea. Today and next Sunday, he will be competing at Monrovia Cart Track next to the 75-80 Dragway in Frederick County, where he recentlywon his heat and feature
It wasn't Jason's first win, either. He has won more than a dozen feature events and has placed in the top five in more than 30 races. He is ninth in the point standings of his class at Monrovia.
In addition to the three-tenths-mile Monrovia cart track, Jason also races regularly at a quarter-mile track in Chestertown, Kent County. He finished fourth in points at Chestertown in both the medium stock and limited modified classes.
When Jason and his father started in cart racing, they knew nothing about preparing the cart or racing it. They started competing at Chestertown, the only track around at that time.
With four years of racing behind him, Jason does all the work on his cart except the engines, which are done by Frank's Small Engines.
In addition to helping his son, Calvin Middleton spent many hours helping Craig Fetter reopen the Monrovia Cart Track.
Now, Calvin and his wife, Pam, are active in the operation of the track and are at races with their son every weekend. Calvin works as a starter and pit steward while Pam scores.
Jason races in two classes, the stock class and the limited modifiedclass. Each class has a weight minimum -- 295 pounds for the stock and 325 pounds for the modified.
The carts are powered by five-horsepower, four-cycle Briggs & Stratton motors. The motors may look likelawn mower motors, but they aren't. They run on methanol and the carts are capable of 85-95 mph.
Jason also raced at Summit Point. The2 1/2-mile course requires Jason to make changes to his cart before racing there.
"We have to change the clutch and rear gears and from chain drive to a belt drive," explained Jason. "We race at high speeds for a half-hour, and the chain gets hot.
"It needs to be lubricated, but since that isn't practical, we use belts instead."
The carts can reach speeds well over 100 mph at the Points, and if you think carting is only for kids, then watch the racing there. Speeds arefast, and drafting -- staying in the air vacuum behind a leading car-- is a big factor.
"It is really neat to experience; it is really wild," said Jason Middletown. "There are sometimes as many as six cars in the draft, just like NASCAR. A car may pull you around the track even though your motor may not be up to par."
If racing sounds like big time at Summit Point, it is.
"We race a motor that is just built for that race," explained Jason. "We practice with another motor, then switch. The motor takes so much abuse running wide open forhalf an hour, we only race with it once and then have it rebuilt. "
Still, cart racing is inexpensive compared to other motor sports. "You get a lot of bang for the money," said Calvin Middletown. "You get a lot of track time and racing experience compared to other types of racing."
Like any sport, cart racing can be dangerous. Drivers are protected by leather suits and helmet with neck collars.
"I have had a couple of bad wrecks," said Jason. "I have had a driver drive up on my head. I also flipped end-over-end for 130 feet and ended in the tree line down at Chestertown.
"The car was a little banged up, but we managed to race the feature."
With only a week left in the 1991 racing season, the 18-year-old North Carroll High School graduate is looking forward to next year. He will be buying a new Champ cart to race in the 1992 World Kart Manufacturers Cup Series.
The first race in this series will be at Jacksonville, Fla., in December.Monrovia will also play host to one of the nine national events on July 12-14.
Jason Middletown and his family won't have much time between their last race of this season next Sunday and the beginning ofa new season in December.
After nine months of racing every week,they still want to go racing and are eager for the start of the new season.